Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Monday, August 06, 2007

My God: The Way It Was, 6 August

1945: ENTER THE ATOM---"My God" is said to have been the only journal entry in the co-pilot's log, when the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.


1923: HELLO, WORLD---We doubt the future mainstay of New York WNEW-AM said precisely his famous sign-on phrase, when the first slap came across the bottom of William Breitbert, born today in Babylon, New York but due to become beloved as future Radio Hall of Fame disc jockey William B. Williams.


1945: "SCIENTISTS BRITISH AND AMERICAN . . . "---The BBC reports the bomb drop.

1945: APPROACHING THE END---Mutual Broadcasting System delivers several break-ins into a music program to report news from Tokyo via San Francisco that Japan would accept the Potsdam proclamation "soon."


1881---Leo Carrillo (actor: Grapevine Rancho; Four Frightened People), Los Angeles; Louella Parsons (as Louella Rose Oettinger; commentator: Hollywood Hotel; Louella Parsons; Texaco Star Theater), Freeport, Illinois.
1886---Billie Burke (as Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke; comedienne: The Billie Burke Show; The Gay Mrs. Featherstone), Washington, D.C.
1892---Victor Rodman (actor: Those We Love), Arkansas.
1894---Jack Kirkwood (actor: Saunders of the Circle X; Hawthorne House), Scotland.
1900---Lucille Ball (comedienne: The Wonder Show with Jack Haley; Pabst Blue Ribbon Town; The Abbott and Costello Show; My Favourite Husband), Jamestown, New York.
1915---Jim Ameche (actor: Jack Armstrong; Silver Eagle), Kenosha, Wisconsin.
1917---Robert Mitchum (actor: Family Theater), Bridgeport, Connecticut.
1921---Ella Raines (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Snoqualmie, Washington.
1922---Jackie Kelk (actor: The Adventures of Superman; The Aldrich Family), Brooklyn.
1925---Barbara Bates (writer: Just Plain Bill; Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), Denver.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Diamonds: The Way It Was, 5 August

1921: PLAY BALL!---The first known broadcast of a major league baseball game goes on the air over KDKA-AM, Pittsburgh, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates versus the Philadelphia Phillies and Harold W. Arlin doing the play-by-play of the game.

The Phillies win, 8-0, as heard over the station that becomes in due course the flagship station for the Pirates' radio network.


1920: IT'S A LONG WAY TO NIGHT COURT---The baby girl born in Montreal, but raised in Brooklyn, will grow up to make her comedic bones as a published humourist in The New Yorker and, then, an old-time radio comedy writing protege of titans Ed Gardner and Goodman Ace, for whom she will work on, respectively, Duffy's Tavern and The Big Show, before becoming a television writer (believed to be the partial inspiration for Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show) and the author of the cheerfully tartNose Jobs for Peace.

But Selma Diamond will probably be remembered best, alas, as the first lady bailiff on television's Night Court---where she will come to share a grave Duffy's Tavern connection . . . when she and her Night Court successor, Florence Halop (the second Miss Duffy, and also a member of Henry Morgan's radio cast), will die within a year of each other, both of cancer.


1887---Reginald Owen (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Wheathampton, U.K.
1890---Al Goodman (pianist/bandleader: Town Hall Tonight; The Sal Hepatica Revuew/Hour of Smiles; Texaco Star Theater; The Fred Allen Show), Nikopol, Russia.
1906---John Huston (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Nevada, Missouri.
1908---Wilbur Evans (singer: Vicks Open House; Stars from the Blue), Philadelphia.
1911---Robert Taylor (actor: Good News of 1938; Lux Radio Theater; Plays for Americans), Filley, Nebraska.
1912---Lew Valentine (host: Mennen Jury Trials; Dr. IQ, the Mental Banker)
1914---David Brian (actor: Mr. District Attorney), New York City; Parley Baer (actor: Gunsmoke; Rogers of the Gazette), Salt Lake City; Anita Colby (actress: Radio Hall of Fame), Washington, D.C.
1915---Peter Lisagor (journalist: Meet the Press), Keystone, West Virginia.
1917---Don Stanley (announcer: Adventures of Nero Wolfe; Out of the Deep; The Saint), Stoughton, Wisconsin.
1918---Tom Drake (actor: Old Gold Comedy Theater; Lux Radio Theater; So Proudly We Hail), Brooklyn.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Horn, a Boss and an Anchor: The Way It Was, 4 August

1901: A HORN IS BORNIn terms of hard old-time radio history, this isn't exactly a hot date . . . unless, of course, you could predict that the infant born today in a poor New Orleans neighbourhood will grow up to learn his first music in reform school, after he fires a gun for a New Year's celebration at age eleven, never mind to revolutionise jazz and charm radio listeners (on The Pursuit of Happiness; Sealtest Village Store; The Story of Swing; and, The Frank Sinatra Show, among others) as well as ballroom goers and record buyers as Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong was the first important soloist to emerge in jazz, and he became the most influential musician in the music's history. As a trumpet virtuoso, his playing,beginning with the 1920s studio recordings made with his Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles, charted a future for jazz in highly imaginative, emotionally charged improvisation. For this, he is revered by jazz fans. But Armstrong also became an enduring figure in popular music, due to his distinctively phrased bass singing and engaging personality, which were on display in a series of vocal recordings and film roles.

---From All Music Guide.

I talked with Louis Armstrong one night in Basin Street and mentinoed his record of "When You're Smilin'" which I had early loved and too soon lost: "I was working in the house band at the Paramount when I was young," Armstrong said. "And the lead trumpet stood up and played that song, and I just copied what he did note for note. I never found out his name but there was kicks in him. There's kicks everywhere."

---Murray Kempton, introducing his anthology, Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events. (New York: Times Books/Random House, 1994.)


1945-46: NEW YEAR'S RADIO DANCING PARTY---Leading a big band of his own, Armstrong delivers both an exuberant trumpet and vocal performance playing "Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive." ("Well, flock!" "Yeah, leader!" "Have you hoid what Brother Moicer said?") That's one of the highlights of a New Year's Eve radio multi-remote---hookups from hotel to hotel---that also includes Harry James ("Sad Sack"), Count Basie ("One O'Clock Jump"), Jimmy Dorsey ("I Got Rhythm"), Artie Shaw with Roy Eldridge ("Little Jazz"), Stan Kenton ("Tampico"), Tommy Dorsey ("Song of India"), Duke Ellington ("Let the Zoomers Zoom"), and, perhaps needless to say, Guy Lombardo ("Auld Lang Syne"). (AFRS).

1950: AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'---Satchmo makes a swinger out of Meredith Willson, when the grandfather of the swing slips up from the Willson orchestra pit, banters with Bob Hope and hostess Tallulah Bankhead, then growls and blows a marvelous "Ain't Misbehavin'," on tonight's edition of The Big Show. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Phil Harris, Deborah Kerr, Frankie Lane, Martin & Lewis. Writers: Goodman Ace, Selma Diamond, Frank Wilson.


1944: THE EUROPEAN BATTLES CONTINUE---Including the continuing battle in and for Normandy, as future Radio Hall of Famer Douglas Edwards anchors this edition of World News Today. (CBS.)

1959: WHO WANTS TO KNOW?---Maybe you do, if you listen to today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Three guesses.)

Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.


1889---William Keighley (host: Lux Radio Theater), Philadelphia.
1890---Carson Robison (singer: The Eveready Hour; The Dutch Masters Minstrels), Chetona, Kansas.
1897---Abe Lyman (bandleader: The Jack Pearl Show; Lavender and New Lace; Waltz Time), Chicago.
1903---Helen Kane (The Boop Boop-a-Doop Girl; actress: Today's Children), The Bronx.
1904---Theodore Newton (actor: Joyce Jordan, M.D.), Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
1905---Frank Luther (singer: The Frank Luther Show; The Happy Wonder Bakers Trio), Lakin, Kansas.
1908---Wally Maher (actor: One Man's Family; The Adventures of Nero Wolfe), Montreal.
1914---Dick Todd (singer: Avalon Time; Your Hit Parade; The Rinso-Spry Vaudeville Theater), Montreal.
1915---William Keene (actor: Land of the Lost), Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Back to Chicago: The Way It Was, 3 August

1984: THE WILD I-TRALIAN COMES HOME---Radio Hall of Famer Dick Biondi---who moved to Chicago WLS in 1960 and brought rock and roll to millions over that station's powerful signal for three years until his move to Los Angeles KRLA---returns to Chicago for a third time, on WJMK-FM, an oldies station.

Biondi will stay until June 2005, when WJMK switches to the "jack" formula; he will move to another Chicago station, WZZN, in November 2006.


1964: HIT AND RUN---Leaving town for awhile and asking his attorney to oversee his shiftless younger brother in the meantime, a gangster meets a girl and causes a fatal accident while trying to impress her, on tonight's series premiere edition of one of the post old-time radio era's periodic attempts to revive its spirit and aesthetic, Theater Five. (ABC.)

Cast and writers: Unknown. Announcer: Fred Foy.


1885---Arthur Sinclair (actor: The Jumbo Fire Chief Program), Dublin.
1896---Wendell Hall (The Red-Headed Music Maker; singer: The Eveready Hour), St. George, Kansas.
1900---Ernie Pyle (journalist: Words at War; Cavalcade of America), Dana, Indiana.
1903---John S. Young (journalist: NBC News), Springfield, Massachussetts.
1905---Gaylord Carter (organist: Amos 'n' Andy; Breakfast in Hollywood), Wiesbaden, Germany; Dolores del Rio (actress: Hollywood On the Air), Durango, Mexico.
1907---Irene Tedrow (actress: Meet Corliss Archer; Chandu, the Magician), Denver.
1916---Horace Logan (creator: Louisiana Hayride, and the man who first told a hysterical audience that "Elvis has left the building"), unknown.
1917---Larry Haines (actor: Young Doctor Malone; This is Nora Drake), Mount Vernon, New York; Charlie Shavers (trumpeter: Jump Time; The Mildred Bailey Show; The Tommy Dorsey Show), New York City.
1918---Les Elgart (bandleader: Let's Go to Town; Manhattan Melodies), New Haven.
1920---Marilyn Maxwell (singer/actress: Kraft Music Hall; The Abbott & Costello Show; The Bob Hope Show), Clarinda, Iowa.
1923---Jean Hagen (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Stars in the Air), Chicago.
1925---Billy James Hargis (radio evangelist), Texarkana, Texas.
1926---Tony Bennett (as Anthony Dominick Benedetto; singer: The F.W. Woolworth Hour; Songs for Sale), Astoria, New York.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Unhappiest Recap: The Way It Was, 2 August

2004---Bob Murphy, who premiered as one third of the original broadcast team of the New York Mets---and whose first regular-season broadcast with the new team occurred in the final days of the old-time radio era---died at age 79. As a baseball writer in earnest since 2002, and a Met fan second, I wrote the following essay in his memory, published first at two days after Murphy's passing.---JK.


And to think that we Met fans since the day they were born had Roger Maris to thank for Bob Murphy.

26 September 1961, Yankee Stadium. Bob Murphy was behind the microphone for the Baltimore Orioles in Yankee Stadium when Jack Fisher, then a Baby Bird and soon enough to become a misfit Met, served Maris a fastball that Maris served into the right field seats for home run number 60. Eight thousand fans sat in Yankee Stadium to watch the blast, and one grandmotherly society woman, who just so happened to have been awarded a new New York franchise for the National League’s first expansion, listened on her own radio.

Whatever he said, however he said it, Murphy had seduced Joan Payson into an invitation to join fellow veteran announcer Lindsey Nelson and former Pittsburgh Pirates home run king Ralph Kiner as the broadcast trio for the maiden Mets.

And the very first regular season words any Mets fan heard on his or her radio, in April 1962, came from that distinctive harmonic of Oklahoma drawl and Missouri honey in the rock, cured but never flattened with attentive exercise during preparatory tours with the Orioles and (with Curt Gowdy) the Boston Red Sox:

Well, hi there, everybody, this is Bob Murphy welcoming you to the first regular season game in the history of the New York Mets. Brought to you by Rheingold Extra Dry. Tonight the New York Mets meet the St. Louis Cardinals, right here in St. Louis. Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and I are on hand to bring you every bit of the action. Yes, sir, the New York Mets are on the air in their first great season.

How we would learn so incandescently that greatness has its connotations of disaster as well as deliverance, the Mets marching forth to finish that season as the most singular theater of absurdism of which professional baseball has record, the flesh and blood enactment of “Who’s On First” as the Keystone Kops might have actualised it.

Casey Stengel reminded a New York generation or three about how to laugh that they might not weep, Bob Murphy taught that generation or three about grace under calamity, and there are your answers should someone inquire how it was possible to withstand season after season of surrealistic Mets anti-ballplaying.

Except that the crazy Mets got even crazier in 1969, snatching a seemingly certain National League East title from a self-immolating team of Chicago Cubs, then sweeping the Atlanta Braves to nail a National League pennant, and---after dropping the first game to sighs of resigned gratitude for having gotten that far in the first place---taking four straight from a Baltimore Orioles team that had the paper look of Panzer tanks greeting the Mets’ buggies. “Those,” Murphy told a Hall of Fame gathering (he was inducted into the broadcast wing in 1994), “were my Boys of Summer.”

Murphy was so facile at finding the flower in the fallout that he was accused easily enough of being the homer of homers, but there is something to be said for a man who could keep you in the family when the home club graduated from surreal absurdism to elemental deconstruction.

When the Mets were good, even great, there was no more genial broadcaster than this portly fellow whose comportment suggested the neighbourhood barkeep who refused to let you drown your sorrows when you could recover your pleasures. When the Mets were gruesome, there was no one to whom you would rather turn for any kind of hint that this, too, should pass. Perhaps it was this that kept his most familiar phrase from devolving into affectative falsity. Only a man who has had to find so many lotuses in so many thick, muddy pools could precede a game-following commercial spot with “Back with the happy recap right after this” and make every buttery syllable seem an extraction from the Word.

And yet when the rare ejaculation of disgust should pass his lips Murphy was just too deeply himself to make it linger as anything other than a “me too, pal” kind of perverse joy. We take you back to 25 July 1990, where something even more grating than Roseanne Barr raping the National Anthem in San Diego occurred. Ninth inning, the Mets have the Philadelphia Phillies in the hole, 10-3, the Phillies put six runs across the plate without one ball being hit any harder than a shuttlecock, and sent the tying run up to hit. And, then, came the only sharply hit ball of the inning.

Line drive---caught! The game’s over. They win. The Mets win it. A line drive to Mario Diaz. They win the damn thing by a score of 10-9.

When he first entered a major league broadcast booth, it was at Curt Gowdy’s beckon, Gowdy having done minor league games with Murphy in Oklahoma. “Let’s announce like we’re friends, just talking to each other,” Gowdy suggested. He had no idea just how right was the man to whom he offered that suggestion. Murphy announced as though everyone with an ear by the speaker was his friend.

He was a Met fan’s friend through the absurdism of Marvelous Marv and the Ol’ Perfesser, through the unreality of the 1969 miracle and the 1973 Mets whose season wasn’t over until it was over; he was your friend through the Saturday Night Massacre dispatch of Tom Seaver and the rise and fall of the 1980s self-immolating dynasty that never was; he was your friend right up to and including the first time Mike Piazza traded his tools of ignorance for a long mitt up the first base line.

Can you believe it?! A wicked line drive to first base and Piazza makes the play. The ball was just blistered by Carlos Rivera. Isn’t that the way it goes in baseball? A guy goes out there for the first time and the ball was hit right at him.

“You never heard him say, ‘Hey, I hope it’s a two-hour game today,’ or ‘I hope we get a quick one here’,” said Mike Krukow, the former San Francisco Giants pitcher who is now a broadcaster for the team. “He never complained. He couldn’t have been happier being at the ballpark. That type of attitude was totally contagious.”

And not without its prices beyond the protracted periods of putridity. “So happy to be broadcasting in the big leagues. Only problem was, the constant roar of airplanes over Shea Stadium affected his hearing. He lost a good bit of it,” said Vin Scully, the man who makes friends of Los Angeles Dodgers fans and thousands if not millions enough others. “But he didn’t care. If that was the price for doing his beloved Mets, he paid it.”

As if to remind one of the foolishness that seems to have been bred into Met administration, their original general manager, M. Donald Grant, thought so little of Murphy that he made Murphy the only member of the broadcast team to wait until after the season’s final game before giving him an “oh, all right” new single year’s contract. The Doubleday regime pulled him off television entirely and restricted him to radio in 1981. The only happier marriage was to his wife, Joye.

“I’ll say goodbye now to everybody,” said Murphy, ending his final broadcast, 25 September 2003, on a night in which the Mets honoured him at Shea, after partner Gary Cohen thanked him for being New York’s Voice of Summer. “Stay well out there, wherever you may be. I’ve enjoyed the relationship with you.”

Appropriately, he paused a moment or three before commencing his standard identification wrap up: “New York Mets baseball is a production of Sports Radio 66, WFAN, in conjunction with the New York Mets.” As he finished the first four words, up came the theme music which rang in and signed off so many Mets games over so many years, that horn-happy riffing intro into an instrumental version of the team’s old “Meet the Mets.”

Bless the Mets, they and the Milwaukee Brewers took a pause in Miller Park to pay a final silent respect to the Voice of Summer, before the Mets went out and thrashed the Brewers, 12-3. And something was missing, in the bottom of the ninth, when Mike DeJean began burping up two of the Brewers’ three runs, with a little help from his friends, like Joe McEwing’s throwing error, allowing one run in, preceding Craig Counsell doubling home Ben Grieve and Gary Bennett getting plunked, before DeJean finally regrouped enough to strike out Scott Podsednik and get Brooks Kieschnick to hit a game-ending popup to second base.

There was no happy recap.

Not even an on-the-fly choke of disgust, when the Mets threatened to let the Brewers unravel Al Leiter’s magnificent start and their own magnificent evening of running, gunning, and stunning the home team; not even a swift followup pondering of whether this just might be the impossible revival, to an impossible recovery, after that nasty weekend with the Atlanta Braves just might have ended the Mets’ feather-light postseason hopes.

And that adds a further choke of grief, to this unhappiest of all unhappy recaps, to know that the roll of those broadcasters whom you know love the game with all their heart, without having to ask, is now reduced on this island earth by one.

“It’s a constant reminder that from dust we come and to dust we shall return, not to be morbid about it,” said Scully. “I’m going to miss Bob, but hopefully we’ll do a game together in the wild blue yonder somewhere.” A consummation devoutly to be wished, because until the day that pleasure is granted us in the next world, God of our fathers our grief is too heavy in this world today.

Murphy's death left Ralph Kiner, the Hall of Fame outfielder/slugger, as the last living member of the original Mets broadcast team.


1892---John Kieran (panelist: Information, Please), The Bronx.
1900---Helen Morgan (singer: Helen Morgan, Songs; Broadway Melodies; The Fred Allen Show), Danville, Illinois.
1902---Guy Repp (actor: County Seat; Our Secret Weapon), unknown.
1905---Myrna Loy (as Myrna Adele Williams; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Raidersburg, Montana; Ruth Nelson (actress: Arch Oboler's Plays; Columbia Workshop), Saginaw, Michigan.
1912---Ann Dvorak (as Anna McKim; actress: Movietone Radio Theater), New York City.
1915---Gary Merrill (actor: Adventures of Superman); Hartford, Connecticut.
1916---Johnny Coons (actor: Captain Midnight; Sky King; Vic & Sade), Lebanon, Indiana.
1918---Beatrice Straight (actress: Great Scenes From Great Plays; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Old Westbury, New York.